The highlight of my early summer departed the nest about a week ago — a noisy, indeterminate number of baby wrens.

Although my yard has been home to many robin and finch families, wrens have never successfully reared a brood.  As I wrote back in March — when  I discovered a tiny unhatched egg in last season’s nest — every beginning had come to naught. 

I didn’t know why,  but in early spring I made a few stabs in the dark, relocating the wrens’ box and constructing two homemade nests, which are still garnering quiet bird laughter around the neighborhood.

These all remain empty, but a male wren quickly claimed the fourth option: a new, store-bought home I hung in a homey maple branch.  Drab of form but glorious of voice, he warbled his little heart out until he won an approving mate.

A couple weeks later, I heard the tiny twitters that spell “baby” and, in the days that followed, watched both parents hustling grub for their hungry brood.


I’m not sure how many there are; they exited the box when I wasn’t looking.  But house wrens typically lay five to six eggs, which sounds right if the subsequent garrulous dialog between babies and parents around my yard was any indication.

Young finches nearby left their nest shortly after.  Fledging occurs over hours and sometimes days; unlike the wrens,  my finches nest in an open box, so it was easier to see the time approaching.  As I watched, the parents encouraged and cajoled while the babies tested their wings or stood for long minutes, pensive, on the edge of the world opening before them.

First flights are typically clumsy;  observing requires not only patience but a willingness to feel one’s heart palpitate as little ones test new wings in unfamiliar air.

Yet late one afternoon,   a sound drew my attention to the finches’ box, where not a minute before a fledgling had been perched.  The young bird had lightly scuffed the gutter beneath the nest as it departed.  As I watched, it rose sharply upward, gathering speed as if shot from a bow into the waning daylight, banking around the maple and over the garage.

Up it soared, faster, and I could almost hear the birds of the ages singing in its awakening ears:  You were made for this. My jaw dropped; my heart leapt. And in an instant I was left behind,  my feet too heavy on the earth,  stricken with joy and grief that would not separate.

I wondered as it disappeared if the fledgling knew how to stop, how to land.  I once rode a bike around the high lip of a velodrome, keenly aware that I needed to maintain a certain speed to avoid slipping down the steeply banked track. The little finch was flying like that, flying as if flying was the only way to keep from falling.

But I knew its parents were nearby, watching; they always are.  This young one would land as it had flown, guided by the ancient grace of its kind,  mysteriously transcribed each summer into new bird bodies.

Its fate — and that of its siblings, and the little wrens — was out of my hands, anyway. Even the illusion of protection — the nest boxes I had built or bought,  my vigilance against neighbor cats — was ended.

Like countless generations before them, the fledglings were now given to the wild world, with all its peril and possibility.


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  1. This is just exhilarating Cate, you have a way of pulling readers right into the narrative!


    1. What a lovely compliment. Thank you!


  2. nice experiencing
    your neighbors, Cate!
    wonder who next
    will move in? 🙂


    1. No telling! I’m considering cleaning out the vacated nests to see if either pair will rebuild in the same houses yet this summer. The old nests are too poopy, but both species will sometimes have a second group of young’ns, and they may be attracted to the same locations, once cleaned. Thanks for your appreciation, David!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. the birds of the ages singing in its awakening ears — you were made for this–

    Thank you, Cate, this is such a magical piece about our magnificent world.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Steph. Thank you for your appreciation.


  4. A breathless journey with you into hope for their future …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hoping it’s a long and happy one. Thank you for reading and commenting!


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